Sunday, January 05, 2014

Epiphany Year A, 2014: Come, Let Us Adore Him



The Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord is a mystery that can be difficult to grasp at first. “Epiphany” is a familiar term, like the “Immaculate Conception,” but also like the Immaculate Conception, we have to pause a moment to remember what exactly it refers too or we could misunderstand it.

The word “Epiphany” means “manifestation.” Our Lord manifested himself and the glory of his divinity in several ways throughout the Gospels. He showed his divinity to his closest apostles on Mt. Tabor at his Transfiguration. He performed his first public miracle by turning water into wine at the Wedding Feast at Cana. God the Father announced Jesus as his Beloved Son at his Baptism in the Jordan River. These were all manifestations, all epiphanies, but today’s celebration focuses on the Son of God being made known to the three wise men from the East. It can be confusing sometimes to understand what all of our feast days mean. But, there is indeed a clear message to all of us today.

First and foremost, we should know that our Gospel reading today does not merely describe a pious legend or some astronomical alignment, as some who try to rationalize the account would say. The story of the wise men from the East following a star to Bethlehem and Jesus is a narrative of fact. It was a miracle and it was real![1] The reality of the account, though fixed at a certain time in history, provides a wealth of inspiration and meaning for all mankind of all times.

Actually it is these three kings – or scientists of the stars, as they came to be known – who themselves represent all mankind. It was too these three non-Jews that Jesus, born to a faithful Jewish family, made himself known. And their journey is typical of all of those throughout history who have searched for Jesus to adore him.  This is a source of great hope for us. To those of us who may not feel particularly close to Jesus – today is a new day. We can find hope in the fact that these three kings also made the journey and they have shown us how to make it.

Their journey was long, no doubt, and how do we suppose they explained it to their family and friends? I’m sure they were met with doubt and dismissal, maybe even ridicule. They had studied the stars; they knew how to follow this brightest star of them all. But it was by a special grace from God that they interpreted it as a sign of the presence of the long-awaited Messiah whom they had heard about from their Hebrew neighbors. Inspired by this grace they sought him out in order to do him homage and adore him. It is just as the prophet Isaiah foretold, “Raise your eyes and look about; they all gather and come to you: your sons come from afar” (In Conversation with God, vol. 1, 320).

Often we too, by a special grace from God, yearn to be close to Jesus Christ and to adore him but it can sometimes seem like we are only coming “from afar.” Let us learn from the magi and be brave. Let us put the same certainty in our knowledge of heavenly things and in our faith that they did. Let us make the long journey with confidence that we will indeed find Jesus, and let us cast aside our love for approval or for material things that get in the way.

Upon finding Him, Isaiah said, “Then you shall be radiant at what you see, your heart shall throb and overflow.” Indeed, St. Matthew tells us, the magi “were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house [when] they saw the child with Mary his mother.” This joy is ours too. Many of you are doing well in your spiritual lives and remain close to Jesus. For you, this could be a day in which you take another step to be even closer to him or invite those who aren’t on the journey to take the first step.

With bravery and with the guidance of the Church and her ministers, we make our way to Jesus and when we find him we are filled with joy and we discover that all of the confusion we may have started with is replaced with simplicity and clarity. St. Matthew tells us that when the magi “saw the child with Mary his mother [t]hey prostrated themselves and did him homage.” They simply humbled themselves, lying flat before him, in adoration. All of the confusion of their long journey, following the star despite difficulties, seeking and following advice, and enduring Herod’s conniving demands gave way to simple adoration of our God-Made-Man.

As we grow closer to Jesus, one helpful reflection could be to examine ourselves to see how/if we adore him. Today’s solemnity challenges us to see ourselves in place of the Magi. Jesus present in the Blessed Sacrament is the same Jesus the wise men found in Mary’s arms. When the Blessed Sacrament is reserved in the tabernacle or displayed in the monstrance every Monday for adoration, do we even realize he is there, like the magi did? How can we grow in that awareness? Many Catholics maintain their awareness by making the Sign of the Cross whenever they drive by a Catholic Church – acknowledging His Presence in the tabernacle there. Or they genuflect slowly and deliberately, with their eyes on the tabernacle, when they enter or exit their pew. Or by spending an hour, or just 15 minutes to pray to Him during Adoration on Mondays. Actions such as these help us to remain prostrate before the Lord in our hearts, right beside the magi. How sad it would be to live life unaware of his presence or to pursue him only “from afar.”

Finally, let us not forget Mary. “The three Kings had their star [to lead them to Jesus]. We have Mary… [who was called by the early Church Fathers] Stella Maris, Stella Orientis, Star of the Sea, Star of the East” (ibid. 333).

[1] Drum, Walter. "Magi."

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